A brief history of the Allen family of Crawford County, Arkansas and Sequoyah County, Oklahoma; this is the story of the family of Alexander Allen who married Nancy Branson

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One source of the surname “Allen” is the practice in the middle ages of identifying someone as the “son of.” Thus a remote ancestor of many of today’s Allens was the “son of Alan.” The Latin root for Allen may be Alanus meaning fierce one. Another possible source of the name is a variation of an Asian tribal name, known to the Romans as the Alani, who entered Europe and France about 300AD and settled in Brittany. During the Norman Conquest they went with William The Conqueror to England in 1066 as knights. One of those was Alan the Count of Fergeant, Brittany, France. He was granted a large feudal estate in Yorkshire, England in 1066. Other sources of names were landmarks or places with which people were identified. Some one who lived near a river or village named “Allan” might be known as Frederic of Allan. Other versions of the modern day name are: Alan, Allan and Allyn.

The earliest ancestor of our Allens that I have been able to locate is Alexander Allen. He was born in Arkansas, presumably in Crawford County, about 1851 or 1852. I am almost certain his parents originated somewhere other than Arkansas. At this point (January, 2005) I have been unable to positively identify them on the 1850 U.S. Census. The census of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, where Alexander was living in 1910, indicates that his father was born in Vermont and his mother in Georgia. No other census gives his parents place of birth. There is an Alanson Allen, age 59, born in Vermont, in Sugar Loaf Township of Crawford County in 1850 (Sugar Loaf was probably near Hartford in what is now Sebastian County). He is the only Allen in Arkansas or Tennessee who gives his place of birth as Vermont. Alanson Allen gave his occupation as physician. His wife was Sally, age 54 was born in Connecticut. Joshua Allen also of Sugar Loaf Township, a farmer, age 52 born in Virginia is also on this census. His wife was Susan, age 36 born in Georgia. It is my hunch that Alanson and Joshua were related, possibly brothers. It would appear that Alanson and Sally were too old to be the parents of Alexander. Joshua and Susan, however, are a possibility. In 1860 an Alex Allen, age seven, is in the household of Thomas Townsen and his wife Mary in Cedar Creek Township (Cedarville). Also in Cedar Creek Township is James Allen, age six, living in the household of Andrew T. Willey and his wife Elizabeth. It is likely that the two boys were orphaned before 1860 and living with relatives. For this reason the Townsen and Willey surnames may be important clues to Alexander’s origins. The Crawford County courthouse in Van Buren was destroyed during the Civil War and then burned down again in 1877 with the loss of almost all of the county records dated before that time. If Alexander’s father bought land in Crawford County or recorded a will those records have been lost. Without county records my research on earlier Allen ancestors has been thwarted. Hopefully, the clues I give here might eventually help future Allen researchers push the family tree back a few more generations.

Alexander’s wife was Nancy A. Branson. In 1980 Alexander’s granddaughter Audra Allen Czarnikow of Liberty, Oklahoma gave me Nancy’s maiden name. Mrs. Czarnikow believed her given name was Mary Addie but the censuses identify her as Nancy. Her middle name could well have been Addie. She was born in Missouri or Tennessee. Jesse Branson owned a gist mill near Cedarville in the 1870’s and was probably a relative. Alexander and Nancy’s marriage license has been lost due to the courthouse fire but they were married in Crawford County about 1870. The couple is on the Crawford County 1870 census in Jasper Township. They were still living in Jasper Township when the 1880 census was taken. With them were five of eventually seven children. Jasper Township is the area near Cedarville and Uniontown. The 1890 census was mostly destroyed in a flood in Washington D.C. The 1900 census shows Alexander and his family living in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory (Oklahoma) – township 6 north range 3 east. Nancy had apparently died between 1888 and 1900 based on the age of the youngest daughter, Nancy M. Allen, then age twelve. The family apparently moved to Indian Territory after daughter Nancy’s birth.

In 1910 Alexander was living by himself in Long Township of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma. Son James A. Allen was living in the same township. It is this census that identifies Alexander’s parents’ places of birth. He apparently died between 1910 and 1920 since he does not appear on the 1920 census. It is likely he is buried in a cemetery in Sequoyah County, possibly near the town of Long north of Muldrow.

Alexander and Nancy Allen had seven children: William B.; James A.; John W.; Mary Ellen; Arizona; Martha L.; Nancy M.; born between 1871 and 1888 in Crawford County, Arkansas. The mother probably died at the birth of the youngest daughter also named Nancy. The family moved to Indian Territory probably about 1894. In that year son James married Ora F. “Effie” Suttles in Crawford County. She was the daughter of Mrs. Martha Ora Suttles (Mrs. Suttles later married a Mr. Southern). Ora Suttles Allen died about 1899 probably in Oklahoma. The 1900 census shows James (widowed) and his son John A., age six, living with Alexander.

John W. Allen was the third son of Alex and Nancy Allen. He was born about 1875 in Crawford County, Arkansas. He married Cynthia Ann Vaughn in January 1898 in Crawford County, Arkansas. White families living in the eastern part of the Indian Nations had to travel to western Arkansas for marriage licenses. The Allen and the Vaughn families were living in the Roland and Muldrow areas of Oklahoma in the 1890’s. John married second Erica Long. John had seven children. One of his daughters, Mrs Audra Cznarnikow of Liberty, Oklahoma corresponded with me in the 1980’s and provided me with much of the information on the Allen family. The youngest son of John and Erica was Eric Allen, born in 1916 in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.

Eric Allen started his writing career as a newspaper reporter, for awhile with the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas and then went on to become a world famous western author. The following newspaper accounts tell of his achievements.

Southwest Times Record, October 5, 1980, Fort Smith, Arkansas
"Ceremony recognizes area author"
Eastern Oklahomans turned out en mass Saturday to honor one of their own - author Eric Allen. Allen recently was recognized internationally in Cambridge, England, for his contributions to literature. Allen, a former SWTR writer, has authored more than 25 novels set in Eastern Oklahoma, Fort Smith and Western Arkansas. His books have been read and enjoyed by readers around the world. The novels portray the history and culture of this region. "I have had many honors in my life," Allen told friends and neighbors who gathered at the Liberty School in Sequoyah County, "but a man can receive no honor greater than the respect and affection of his hometown friends." In addition to plaques from the Liberty Community and one from the Liberty School, Allen was presented an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol from U.S. Rep. Mike Synar. From Oklahoma Gov. George Neigh came a citation naming Allen an official Territorial Marshal of Oklahoma. And Fort Smith Mayor Jack Freeze granted the author an official pardon from Judge Isaac Parker's court, which is presented to distinguished visitors to the city. The Liberty Community also presented Allen with a gold key to the city, noting that the famous writer already had the key to the hearts and friendship of the people who know him best.
Newspaper article, Branson, Missouri, ca.1985.
In June, next year, western writers from all over the country will visit Branson to participate in the annual convention of the Western Writers of America (WWA). This week, Eric Allen, former president of the WWA, enjoyed the area for yet another reason - to celebrate with his wife, Millie, their 46th wedding anniversary. A Fort Smith, Ark. native, Allen has published nearly 30 novels and is considered an authority on Judge Parker, the famous hanging judge that is said to have established law and order in Arkansas and Oklahoma territories. Besides being an author, Allen also writes newspaper columns, travel stories, and is a noted photographer. "I sold my first story 30 years ago to Ranch Romances and I became a big contributor in those days to pulp westerns." Allen said. "My first novel, "Hang Tree Country," was published in paperback and sold for 35 cents." Allen looks like a cowboy, talks like one, and after a few minutes of conversation, there's no question about his knowledge of western lore or the years he has spent in researching the history of the wild west. "Back during the depression, I left home with Steinbeck's Okies," he said laughingly, "and in the 30's, I was a ranch foreman for the Babbitt Brothers in Arizona. Heck, I once ran three ranches for $50 per month." Allen, who was visiting with Branson authors Charlotte and Jory Sherman, told many stories about the Great Depression and the people who moved west from the dust bowl. "Money was so tight that if you would have dropped a quarter in the Arkansas River, you could have heard the echo (of the splash) clear to the Immaculate Conception Church," he said. He also told of how those moving west were mistreated by the California locals. "Everywhere you would find shade, a piece of canvas was stretched for shelter. Steinbeck was right, we won California without firing a shot." With "Land of the Hanging Judge," a novel about Parker due for syndication, Allen is currently working on two other novels about the west. In 1974, he published "Tales and Legends of the Ozarks" and is well acquainted with this area. Also, Allen wrote the screenplay of "Smoke in the Wind," the last movie in which Walter Brennan was a star. "I'll be here in June," he said, "and I really look forward in seeing and visiting with all of the writers. It is expected that 200 writers will attend the WWA convention and according to Jory Sherman who still directs the local activities, a large number of publishers, agents and editors are also expected to attend.

(Just a note, my mother, Clara (Corbett Wall) Donath worked with Eric to turn the screenplay “Smoke in the Wind” into novel form for publication. She lived a short distance down the road from Eric and Millie near Roland, Oklahoma in the 1980’s.)

Southwest Times Record, Oct. 1986, Fort Smith, Arkansas:
Nationally known novelist and area newspaperman Eric Allen died Monday at age 70.
The author of several western novels and short stories resided in the Liberty, Okla., community with his wife, Mildred. The most recent of his 30 novels is "Smoke in the Wind." It is adapted from the 1971 motion picture by the same name, for which Allen wrote the screenplay. Allen's novel, "Black Powder Posse," released one year ago, has already sold well in the area, said Mildred Allen. She said his first novel, "Hangtree Country," first released in 1958 and distributed worldwide in many foreign languages, could be his favorite. Another likely favorite is a Gothic mystery, "Voices in the Wind," published by Signet Books in 1967. It was written from a woman's point of view, under his mother's name, Erica Long Allen. While Allen spent much of the last 30 years writing fiction based on fact, he also worked for many years as a newspaper writer and editor. In 1963, the Southwest Times Record recruited him from the Enid (Okla.) Morning News, where he worked as the paper's news editor. Allen spent the first of his nine years writing features for the SWTR "Southside News" edition. His last eight years at the paper were spent as a travel feature writer and photographer. From there, he went to Sallisaw to work on the Sequoyah County Times, and after a year there, moved to Muldrow where he purchased the Big Basin Herald newspaper. After a little more than three years in Muldrow, Allen retired to write his novels and short stories at home. He is a 30-year member of Western Writers of America and has served as bicentennial chairman for Muldrow. He attended Short Baptist Church and Liberty Assembly of God Church. Allen's funeral will be 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Liberty School auditorium. Burial will be at Liberty Cemetery under the direction of Edwards Funneral Home. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Linda Redding of Fort Smith and Waiva Strain of Alma; two sons, the Rev. Stephen Allen of Chattanooga, Tenn. and the Rev. Bruce Allen of Kerrville, Texas; two sisters, Audrey Czarnikow of Scott, Okla. and Vangie Burris of Roland; two brothers, Dayton of Roland and John of Liberty; 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Pallbearers will be Ray House, Philip Trammell, Bob Faulkner, Ronald Wilson, Calvin Carter, Dusty Helbling and Wayne Redden. A memorial fund has been established with the Liberty Assembly of God Church.

Another author emerged in the Allen family in the person of Jerry Don Allen. Jerry Don was the son of James Robert Allen, the grandson of John Ancil Allen and great grandson of James A. Allen. Jerry was born in April 1941 in Van Buren, Arkansas. He was a successful autoparts dealer and merchant in Van Buren until his death in 1994. He wrote one book, which was published in 1976 and we all kept waiting for the next, which, sadly, never came.

Southwest Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas, June, 1976
"VB Man's book now on the market" (by Ed Hicks)
Know Jerry Allen of Van Buren? He's just come out with his first book, "The Adventures of Jimmy Poole," published by Dillon Press, Inc., Minneapolis.
It's a dandy story of boyhood adventure on the Arkansas River, starting at a town called Riverside (actually Van Buren, Allen's home town) and continuing about 35 miles down river. Residents of Riverside believe Jimmy Poole has been done away with, but he's really busy making new friends, including a lovable but retarded teenager named Pauli; Poochie Carver, a black boy and good friend; and Filthy Logan, the villain of the story. The story of boyish misadventure is reminiscent of Mark Twain's beloved characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. At times the book will make your hair stand on end. There is excellent characterization and story-telling ability. It is possible that the sandbars and swimming holes of Van Buren may have given incentive to a 20th Century Mark Twain in the person of Jerry Allen. Allen started making up stories when he was in grade school, and has been writing fiction ever since for his own amusement. Two years ago he took a creative writing course at Westark Community College, and was encouraged by his instructor to keep it up. This book is the result.
 
Ronald N. Wall
Modified: 11 March 2017